Our visitors are welcome

February 13, 2018

Shepparton's Victoria Park Lake is a popular precinct for tourists.

It is pleasing updated visitation statistics are trending in a broadly positive direction.

Domestic travel in particular impressed in the 12 months to September.

A 35 per cent jump in overnight visitation is nothing to sneeze at.

The region surveyed is broad, encompassing Seymour, Strathbogie and the Murrindindi shires.

Even so, this is impressive. The causes behind the hike in domestic visitors is yet to be analysed.

But any time an increase of this volume of visitors is witnessed, one imagines a visible economic injection would be felt.

Especially so when visitors average 2.2 nights in the region, spending about $115 a night each, according to Goulburn River Valley Tourism numbers, informed by the National Visitor Survey, from Tourism Research Australia.

It is also unclear as yet how many and to what end this increase in visitation is observed in Greater Shepparton.

We know local stakeholders have been hard at work trying to attract visitors to events staged and invested in for the region.

Curiously, however, is 15 per cent dive in international overnight visitors to the region.

Again, any number of factors might be behind this.

While far from unexpected, one of the elephants in the room with this set of data has to be that 95 per cent of the region’s visitors come by car.

While it is unclear whether any drop in international visitation is connected with rail, the inadequate regularity and quality of rail service in the region is almost definitely connected to only a slender percentage of visitors using it.

While Seymour, a town much better provided for in terms of public transport than Shepparton, is interestingly also accounted for in these statistics, one obviously wonders what sort of visitation might be possible if Shepparton had the eight services a day — perhaps more — we all know it is worth it.

Almost just as important is the quality of service, comfort, ease and user-friendliness.

Furthermore, the sort of first impression a visitor has when alighting in a new town or region matters.

More services is one part of the equation. Promoting them is another.

Locals and visitors alike actually using them is another altogether, a questions partly to do with how convenient and user-friendly such services prove.

The long-standing challenges of rail in this area are well understood and are broadly being addressed. It is no quick fix.

While visitation appears to be tracking positively, we keenly watch and await the sort of impact improved rail services might have on the region.

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